This article covers frequently asked questions about travelling and staying in Yosemite, from a climber's point of view. See also hints on free-climbing and tips on big-wall climbing.
The best time to climb in the Valley is from mid-March to mid-May and Mid-September to mid-November.
Summer is too hot in the Valley. Lots of climbers go to higher elevations, like Tuolumne Meadows, or Lake Tahoe destinations. However the climbs in the shade and at higher locations (like Sentinel or Half-Dome) are then fine.
The winter is the wettest season, and might be too cold, although there might also be some very nice days with excellent conditions in the sun and no crowds. Basically conditions are quite impredictable during that season.
In April, the weather is still variable. There are chances of rain, and if you are unlucky, it can be wet (no more snow, though), but most likely the weather will be nice. In 1994, I spent two weeks in the Valley, and was never rained on.
Starting from approximatively mid May (of course there are exceptions to that), there is no more weather systems, and all you have to contend with is the occasional afternoon thunderstorm (and the heat).
The best way would be to rent a car. Drive on freeway to Manteca, and then towards Sonora though Oakdale (this is the last place to stop for supermarkets) making a right a few miles before Sonora. From there you cannot get lost.
Public transportation is available to the Valley and in the Valley. In the Valley, no problem, there are free shuttle each half-hour or less. To the Valley is it s asort of nightmare but it can be done. I have never done that, so I am reusing information posted by Joseph Pullara, Scott Renger, Neal Weiss. Public transportation will take you a day to get there, and would be an option if you are staying for a long time, since you don't really need a car in the Valley.
Most public transportation to The Valley starts from Fresno, and you may be able to save some time (but probably not money) by taking an air shuttle from San Francisco to Fresno. Amtrak trains also run SF to Fresno, but Amtrak's connecting bus line to Yosemite seems to start in Merced, not Fresno. So the standard method would be:
Greyhound Bus Lines 1(800)231-2222 http://www.greyhound.com Amtrak 1(800)USA-RAIL http://www.amtrak.com
Wherever you go be careful about bears. Don't leave food outside of bear-proof containers (your car is not necessarily bear-proof). On official camps, you'll find metal bear boxes.
Camp 4 is the cheaper ($3 per day) and most popular place with climbers. It is somewhat dusty, noisy, and crowded, especially during the summer. To get a site, you have to line up in the morning. It is a first-come, first-served campsite, which means that there are no reservations. You are not supposed to stay for more than one week (new limit I've heard) at Camp 4. This does not seem to be a problem in practice. Just say you stay for a week. Then the next week say you stay for a week but don't say you've been there before. "You can dodge the limit: move around, don't be an asshole, keep a low profile. I [John] had to hang for 2 months before getting on SAR. Don't stay in the boulders behind the SAR site: the rangers look there all the time." Alternatively, you could try to make reservations for a less popular campground such as Crane Flat or Hodgdon Meadow, which aren't in Yosemite Valley, but near it. Or... you could do the walk-in thing at Wawona campground. In any case, if you're going to try for a walk-in campground, get there *really* early. You might want to call 209-372-0302, the NPS campgrounds office for more information about the walk-in campgrounds.
"There is a secret place, shhhhh... don't tell anyone.... Take 140 to Yosemite, sometime after Midpines you'll notice a long downgrade, as you sense you're approaching the bottom of the this downgrade, start looking for the Merced River, it will appear all of a sudden in front of you as the downgrade bottoms out. On the left side of the road, you'll notice a stone building, (some form of tourist center related to geology). If you cross the bridge you've gone to far. You'll notice a small parking area just past this building. There is a dirt road just past the stone building, between it and the parking area. Hang a left and go down this dirt road. After about 100 yards, the road crosses the Merced over this old scary bridge, cross the bridge, veer left and just follow the Merced river. You're now travelling down the Merced away from Yosemite Valley. After about 1 or 2 miles on the left you'll see some very crude campsites. This is some obscure state campground, it's not on any map, and I've hardly ever seen anybody there. I've been there on a friday night in July, EVERY known campground anywhere near Yosemite was full, and this place was almost empty!!!! It's not very pretty, (considering how close you are to Yosemite), but it sounds perfect for your situation, especially with your trailer. You probably won't meet many climbers, they mostly tend to crash amongst the boulders when they can't find a real site, but I [Brad] think it's you best bet."
For groceries, the best place is Yosemite Village.
Breakfasts can be had at the Cafeteria in Yosemite Lodge, but there is often a long line. There is an outdoor stand at Curry Village which serves decent food faster.
A pizza can be bought in Yosemite Village (closes early) and Curry Village.
I tried the new pasta restautant on the second floor, above Degnan's Deli in the Yosemite Village. Good and affordable.
At Yosemite Lodge, there is a "all you can eat" buffet, which is a good deal for hungry climbers.
Another method is to use the net: contact members of local clubs, people listed in the various climbing directories, and people who seem familiar from postings on rec.climbing. This can be preferable if your stay is short so as to minimize the time loss (and also the locals would provide you with transporation).
If you're looking for instruction or a guide, contact the Yosemite Mountainering school (209-372-8344) which operates in the Valley.
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